Psychiatry Glossary

ADHD(Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder) describes the problems of children who are overactive and have difficulties concentrating. In everyday life, people often describe children who become excitable, boisterous or disobedient as hyperactive. The professional term refers to a more severe and long-lasting problem.

Adjustment Disorder is a state of mixed of emotions such as depression and anxiety which occurs as a reaction to major life events or when having to face major life changes such as illness or relationship breakdown.

Affective Disorder is a term used for any disorder of mood such as depression, hypomania, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.

Agoraphobia is a condition which leads to extreme anxiety and fear about leaving the safe environment of home, being in open spaces or being alone or in a public place.

Akathisia is restlessness of arms and legs. This can be a side-effect of antipsychotic treatment.

Alzheimer’s Disease is a condition causing loss of memory, intellectual decline, changes in personality and behaviour and an increased reliability on others for activities of daily living. It is a form of dementia.

Amnesia means loss of memory. Amnesic syndrome is another term for loss of memory.

Anorexia nervosa is an illness involving an intense fear of being fat, distorted body image, under-eating and excessive weight loss.

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, apprehension or worry. It may be associated with physical symptoms such as rapid heart beat, feeling faint and trembling. It can be a normal reaction to stress or worry or it can sometimes be part of a bigger problem.

Asperger’s syndrome is a genetic disorder thought to be on the same spectrum as Autism. People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulties in three main areas: socialising, communication and behaviour.

Auditory hallucination this means hearing a voice or sound when there is nothing there.

Autism is disorder which usually appears within the first three years of life and may result in learning difficulties, speech problems and difficulty relating to people.

Antidepressants are used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, obsessional problems and sometimes pain.

Antipsychotics are used for the treatment of psychosis. They are sometimes referred to as Neuroleptics. Some of the earlier drugs in this group were haloperidol and chlorpromazine. In recent years, a new group of antipsychotics has been developed which have fewer side-effects. These are called Atypical Antipsychotics and include clozapine. olanzapine, risperidone and quetiapine.

Behaviour therapy is a form of psychotherapy which seeks to improve the way a person feels by changing what they do. It is commonly used to overcome phobias.

Benzodiazepines are drugs that relax people and make them feel calm. Unfortunately, the effects are only short-lived and people can become addicted to them, which can make them more anxious. They can be effective in very short courses.

Binge eating Uncontrollable episodes of eating very large quantities of food over a short period of time. It occurs in bulimia.

Bipolar disorder is a disorder in which a person can experience recurrent attacks of depression and mania or hypomania. It used to be called manic depression.

Body dysmorphophobia is a preoccupation with imagined or minor defects in one’s appearance that leads to marked distress and significant handicap.

Bulimia is an eating disorder characterised by binge-eating, vomiting and purging by making themselves sick, or abusing laxatives.

Capacity is the ability to understand and take in information, weigh up the relative pros and cons and reach a sensible decision about the issue.

Claustrophobia is the fear of being in an enclosed space.

Delerium tremens is sometimes known as 'DTs'. The main symptoms are sweating, shaking, confusion and hallucinations. It is caused by alcohol withdrawal.

Dementia is a condition in which there is a gradual loss of brain function. The main symptoms are usually loss of memory, confusion, problems with speech and understanding, changes in personality and behaviour and an increased reliance on others for activities of daily living. There are a number of causes of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most well known.

Depression is a common condition. The main symptoms are feeling low, sleep problems, loss of appetite, concentration and energy. There are a number of treatments that can help.

Depersonalisation is an uncomfortable and, for some, a frightening feeling in which people feel unreal and detached from their surroundings. It's related to derealisation.

Derealisation an uncomfortable and, for some, a frightening feeling in which people feel that things around them are unreal. It's related to depersonalisation.

ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy) is a method of treatment for mental distress/illness. It is mainly used for people with a diagnosis of severe depression who do not appear to be getting better or are not responding to medication. ECT involves passing a current of electricity through the head, which causes a convulsion (fit) in the brain. As medication is given to relax the muscles, there is very little movement of the body.

Hypomania A state of high mood that is not quite so severe as mania.

Mania A state of extreme overactivity and high mood. It is seen as the opposite of depression.

Manic depression is a condition in which people have mood swings that are far beyond what most people experience in the course of their lives. These mood swings may be low, as in depression, or high, as in periods when we might feel very elated. These high periods are known as ‘manic’ phases. Many sufferers have both high and low phases, but some will only experience either depression or mania.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a fairly common problem where people experience ‘obsessions’, recurring unwanted thoughts which are difficult to stop, and ‘compulsions’, rituals of checking behaviour or repetitive actions which are carried out in an attempt to relieve the thoughts.

Panic Attack is an intense and sudden feeling of fear and anxiety. It is associated with many physical symptoms such as rapid heart beat, trembling, rapid shallow breathing, pins and needles in the arms and feeling faint. Many people who have a panic attack fear that they will collapse or die. These attacks are not harmful and usually go away within 20-30 minutes.

Paranoid psychosis The main symptoms of this condition are hallucinations and delusions, often with a change of mood. It is very similar to schizophrenia.

Parasuicide is sometimes called Deliberate Self-Harm. It is a term used when someone self harms, but does not kill themselves.

Personality disorder describes someone who has severe disturbances of their character and behaviour. Personality disorders usually appear in late childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood. The thought patterns and behaviours cause distress to the person or to those around them.

Phobia is an irrational and intense fear of a situation or object.

Postnatal depression is a mental illness that occurs within the weeks or months after childbirth.

Psychosis is a condition in which a person isn't in contact with reality. This can include: sensing things that aren't really there (hallucinations); having beliefs that aren't based on reality (delusions); problems in thinking clearly; and not realising that there is anything wrong with themselves (called ‘lack of insight’).

Puerperal psychosis is a mental illness which comes on after childbirth. The symptoms are usually severe depression or mania, often with psychotic features.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression or mood disorder with a seasonal pattern. The symptoms of SAD are most obvious during the winter months when the days are shortest. Symptoms of SAD tends to appear from around September each year, and reduce or disappear in the spring and summer months.

Schizophrenia is a mental illness. The main symptoms are hallucinations (hearing voices), delusions (a firm belief in something that isn’t true) and changes in outlook and personality.

Social Phobia is a feeling of intense fear and anxiety which comes on when a person is doing something in front of others. Common situations which provoke this anxiety can include eating and talking in public.

Substance misuse is a term which refers to the harmful use of any substance, such as alcohol, a street drug or misuse of a prescribed drug.

Tardive dyskinesia Abnormal movements that can occur after long-term use of some older antipsychotic drugs

Temporal Lobe epilepsy A form of epilepsy in which people get an aura before a fit. This aura may include, hallucinations of sound, smells or tastes or feelings of anxiety

Trichotillomania Repeated pulling out of one's own hair or eyelashes and eyebrows


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